Friday’s Essay - Expectations


Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. 

If you find this essay helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

We are just entering the real, honest-to-goodness, presidential election season. And right along with the apocalypse that will occur if the person we don’t like is elected, there are high expectations for the fair-haired boy or girl if they wind up winning. And even though the specifics may differ, the results will be wonderful after our guy or gal takes office. I mean, there’ll be so many jobs available we’ll have to recruit immigrants; in fact, we’ll be able to pick and choose so we’ll only have to accept those who are willing to forget the language of their birth and to abandon their pagan god or gods. And we’ll all have great health insurance, our kids will receive the best education in the world, our military will be second to none, and we’ll be able to retire at 64 and then live another thirty years in absolute comfort. And what’s really great is that we’ll be able to do all that and still see both our personal taxes and the national debt go down. Praise the Lord, the kingdom is about to come. That is, if we elect the candidate who will save us and defeat the anti-christ. Yes siree, this is a time of high expectations. But let’s face it, that’s just what people expect every four years.

And I’ll tell you, I think we carry these expectations into areas other than politics. And in my opinion, that’s pretty obvious when you’re talking about religion, even Christianity. Although we might not talk about receiving a bunch of young ladies after our martyrdom, I still think a lot of folks who call Jesus “Lord” expect a lot from their personal savior, and I don’t believe it’s limited to freedom from sin and guilt. Of course, in my experience, that’s one thing that’s changed in my 59 years. You see, when I was a kid I heard a lot about fire and brimstone and was taught that believing in Jesus provided the only “Get Out of Hell Free” card available. That’s what we expected from God in exchange for faith, and that’s still the bread and butter of some churches in our area. But now, for most Christians, I think their expectation are a little different. Based on what I hear people say and some preachers preach, Jesus is in the business of fixing our lives right now. You see, belief is a lot like putting a coin in a gum ball machine. We put faith in and out pops a good marriage and more money and constant happiness. That’s what a lot of Christians expect. Of course, if we don’t get the gum ball, we must be using a slug rather than a coin. In other words, if our expectations aren’t fulfilled, there must be something wrong with us and the stuff we’re trying to pass as real faith.

And you know, that a crying shame, because the real problem isn’t us. It’s the expectations we project upon Christ. And I can say that because of what Jesus said himself. I mean, when he called the disciples, he didn’t talk about marriages or money or happiness. Instead, this is what happened:
And as he was passing by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting out their nets into the sea, for they were fishers. And Jesus said to them, “Here, follow me. And I will make you to become fishers of people.” 
You see, Jesus didn’t promise them, and he doesn’t promise us more stuff, much less only good stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, my life is much better believing that God loves me than it was before. I have a sense of peace and hope I didn’t have, and that enables me to deal with some of the nonsense that seems to be constant fixture in my life. But Jesus, when he called the first of the twelve, he didn’t tell them that he’d indulge their expectations. Instead he told them what he would enable them to do; they’d be able to approach others and invite them to follow too. You see, that’s what he did for them, and that’s what he does for us.

And over the next six weeks, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about during the worship service, starting this Sunday when we focus on the fact that we were all once fish ourselves. And so, let me invite and encourage you to attend services over the next month and a half so that, together, we can learn what it means to fish for people. And if we do, not only will our ability to share grow, so will our faith.